Is it time to detach from attachment theory? Perspectives from the West African rain forest

Alma Gottlieb

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the West, strangers have had a problematic profile for some time. In an existential sense, as articulated in moving ways by Camus (1946), strangers challenge the notion of community that, as postmodern, largely urban dwellers, many of us crave - and for which we may nostalgically (though perhaps from a false sense of nostalgia) long. In English, the term itself has decidedly sinister connotations. Strangers are dangerous. They represent a potential threat to our safety, and the safety, especially, of children - our children. Via the teachings of parents, teachers, and other authorities, North American and other Western(ized) adults in particular actively socialize children to feel fear at the sight, even the thought, of strangers. For example, the federally funded initiative, D.A.R.E., which is now administered by local police departments around the USA, takes as its earliest goal the socialization of kindergartners into fearing strangers. Through this program, police officers entering elementary schoolrooms instruct 5-year-old children to shun strangers who might abduct them for unspeakable purposes. "Don’t talk to strangers," "Don’t get into a car with a stranger," "Don’t take candy from a stranger" - these lessons become mantras that we hope our young children will memorize and internalize for their own protection. Significantly, D.A.R.E. itself is conceived of first and foremost as an anti-drug-use campaign. Thus, as taught in the program (in quite explicit ways for older students), the category of "stranger" is linked with illegal drug use and drug trafficking, which themselves constitute an undisputed site of evil in the contemporary public imagination. Through initiatives such as D.A.R.E in the USA and other postindustrialized and urbanized societies - coupled with the daily, more informal teachings of parents and other adults - "strangers" have come to represent the epitome of the demonized Other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDifferent Faces of Attachment
Subtitle of host publicationCultural Variations on a Universal Human Need
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781139226684
ISBN (Print)9781107027749
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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